When working with fathers entering into a divorce or who have recently divorced, there is a 5-step process through which I assist them in identifying and implementing an action plan for their lives. Throughout this Dads’ Guide to Divorce series, I will be sharing the specific process with detailed ways in which you can utilize it in order to achieve an amazing life for you and your children.
Step 2: Strategize Your Actions
In my last article “Dads’ Guide to Divorce: Step 1 — Clarify Your Vision” we spoke about how when entering into a divorce or beginning life post-divorce many men including myself struggle with clarifying a vision and direction for our lives. That as you sort through the emotions and feelings of divorce it is critical to begin to clarify your vision and direction for your future after divorce. This is important because as men our identity is closely aligned with the vision for our lives. And as part of our masculine makeup, we are wired toward aligning with the vision and direction that we want for our future.
I proposed a two-step process to assist in clarifying your vision and direction by #1: journaling and #2: a contemplative practice. If you haven’t read “Dads’ Guide to Divorce: Step 1-Clarifying Your Vision,” you can do so here. As these steps compound upon each other, I highly suggest stopping now and reading Step 1.
Once we have clarified our vision and direction, it is necessary to begin the process of Strategizing Your Actions. There seems to be much confusion these days around how to set goals and put forth the effort to achieve them. YouTube and self-help books are filled with ideas, tricks, hacks, and a myriad of other advice on how to do so. However, I subscribe to this simple 3-step process:
#1: Set your goal
#2: Work backward from your goal and determine the step(s) necessary to reach that goal
#3: Relentlessly focus/refocus on the behavior necessary to implement those step(s)
How does this look in practice? I will draw from my own life and a goal that I set after my divorce based upon the vision and direction I envisioned for our family. As is the case with many men the prospect of less time with my children was heart-wrenching. I knew that if I was only going to see them as their father 50% of the time that I was going to be the best father during that time and make sure that I was present in every moment.
My Vision: be a heart-centered, available father who is always present.
My Goal: be mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually present during each moment of my parenting time.
In order to achieve this goal, it was necessary for me to work backward in two specific areas of my life in order to focus on and implement the necessary behaviors. These two areas were physical and mental.
To achieve the first I needed to create an actionable plan that would allow me to actually be physically present for my daughters during my parenting time. I made the conscious choice that if they were with me during parenting time that I would be caring for them. Since I am self-employed this required me to modify my work schedule and business model so that I was available to them each day before and after school and at all other necessary times. Naturally, this was a burden on my small business as it required me to drastically cut the hours that I worked. In order to cut these hours, I needed to learn to be more effective and efficient during the hours that I did work. I also accepted the fact that I would be earning less income and that my lifestyle would need to change. These were very big actions that required many behavioral changes in order to accomplish my goal. I will admit that I did a poor job of implementing this goal until recently. I did not make the necessary effort to maintain my business and the result was a severe financial hardship. Lesson learned and my subsequent actions have refocused my behaviors toward greater success while maintaining availability to my daughters.
The second actionable plan that I needed to create was one that allowed me to maintain my own mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well being in order to be present in each moment with my girls. What do I mean by this? In order for me to present and mindful in each moment during our time together, I needed to be able to maintain focus and presence. If my mental state was one of distraction, that would mean that I am not present. If my emotional state was one of chaos, then I would not be present. If I were physically hurt or sick I would not be present. If I did not nourish my spiritual well-being, then I was not centered in my vision and I would not be present.
In order to achieve this, I needed to create an actionable plan to optimize each of the areas of my life; mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. This meant that I would meditate every day to maintain my mental well being. I would seek and participate in support groups to maintain my emotional well being. I would schedule the time to exercise regularly each week to maintain my physical well being. And for my spiritual well being, I would pray daily and attend church weekly.
As you see there can be many steps necessary to strategizing your actions in reaching your goal. The critical component is Step #3 to focus on the behavior necessary to implement your determined steps rather than the goal itself. Former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers has a great TedX talk on focusing on your behaviors instead of your goal. You can watch it here. In it, he states, “We set goals for ourselves but our goals are things that are outside of our control…behaviors are the things that you focus on in order to achieve your goals.”
As in my example above in order for me to stay physically healthy, I identified that I would need to work out every day. The behavior that I implemented was to get up each morning and exercise first thing and do this 6 days a week.
Now you have it. The 3 Step Method to Strategizing Your Actions. Get out there and start working through these steps. I know that you can do it, and if you take it slow, one goal at a time, before you know it you will be checking off goal after goal after goal in a truly amazing life! The next article will build upon Dads’ Guide to Divorce Steps #1 and #2 by Upgrading Your Skills.